French people are engaged in a national debate over whether or not parents should be able to smack their children, after the Council of Europe took France to task for its vague laws on the subject.
The decision, published Wednesday by the Council's European Committee of Social Rights, noted that "there is now a wide consensus at both the European and international level among human rights bodies that the corporal punishment of children should be expressly and comprehensively prohibited in law."
Under French law, parents have the "right to discipline" their children, but corporal punishment is forbidden in schools.
France argued its penal code outlaws violence against children, but the committee ruled that the French laws do not establish an "express and comprehensive prohibition on all forms of corporal punishment of children that is likely to affect their physical integrity, dignity, development, or psychological wellbeing."
The case was brought by a British child protection charity which argued that France was in violation of the European Social Charter treaty, which the country ratified in 1999.
The decision is not binding for France, but has stirred a national conversation on the effectiveness of spanking and smacking.
French Family Minister Laurence Rossignol told Agence France-Presse that France needed a "collective debate" on the usefulness of corporal punishment in the education of children.
But she indicated that this will not be "enshrined in law."
"For abusive parents, we have a penal code," she told AFP. "For those that occasionally resort to corporal punishment, we need to help them do things differently and not discredit them by saying 'the judge is coming to deal with that.'"
French television station France24 held a debate on the subject...
While Le Monde questioned whether there is an educational value in smacking.
Peter Newell, who is part of the UK charity which brought the complaint, said the law needs to change.
"The purpose of a ban isn't to send more parents to jail, its to change public attitudes and to protect children," Newell told The Local.
"People used to say the same thing about banning domestic violence against women, but now, no one would dare suggest that giving a little slap to a wife or partner should be lawful or acceptable.
"It's actually paradoxical that kids, who are more vulnerable, should be the last to get this protection," he said.
Thierry Vidor, director general of the Familles de France group, said spanking should play no role in schools, but was suspicious of the courts intervening in people's parenting.
"To have judges oversee the parent-child relationship could have very negative consequences in the education and development of children and would not solve the problem of abuse," he said.